MILAN — “My alarm went off at 6:30 this morning and I said, ‘That’s it, it’s starting,’’’ Robert Polet, the president and chief-executive-in-waiting of Gucci Group said at the house’s spring 2005 men’s wear show here Tuesday night.

Polet, a former Unilever executive, officially starts Thursday. An unknown in the fashion world, he didn’t exactly make a splash at the show — Polet lingered behind the last row among the standing-room-only crowd while his bosses, Pinault-Printemps-Redoute ceo and interim Gucci Group president Serge Weinberg and Artemis chairman François-Henri Pinault, sat front-row.

“This is a much better view,” Polet said. “I can see everything.”

Polet has been quietly touring Gucci facilities over the last few months, ever since his appointment was announced, and it’s clear he is eager to get rolling. “This is the most exciting job change of my career,” beamed the relaxed, tan and smiling executive.

Meanwhile, Gucci offered further evidence of what its collections will look like in the post-Tom Ford and Domenico De Sole era.

For John Ray, the alarm went off three months ago when PPR offered him the job as Gucci men’s wear creative director. Ray, along with his two co-creative directors, Alessandra Facchinetti and Frida Giannini, who oversee women’s and accessories, respectively, must all face the legacy of Ford while discovering their own united voice.

Although he worked under Ford for almost eight years, Ray was understandably anxious before his debut solo effort.

“I’m kind of nervous but I’m very excited,” Ray told WWD and its brother publication DNR backstage before the show. “I’ve been working with Tom for a long time, so it’s not exactly new. I’m not coming from the outside.”

Although he has strong ties to a Ford-driven Gucci, Ray sought to subtly infuse his own vision without betraying the essence of the brand. Everyone entered the show space expecting a sea change. In the end, the scene stayed true to Gucci, with the same seating, show time, press people and mood, yet, while everything seemed the same, it was somehow different.

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